India pained by 'insult to tricolour' on R-Day: Modi on farmer protests

India was "deeply anguished" by the insult to the national flag on Republic Day last week, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, referring to farmers breaching the Red Fort in Delhi during protests against three agriculture laws.

Modi, in his monthly radio speech 'Mann Ki Baat', spoke about protesters hoisting flags at the Fort after hundreds of them deviated from agreed routes and breached the heart of Delhi. Farmers commandeered cranes and used ropes to tear down roadblocks miles from routes approved by the police, forcing the police in riot gear to fall back and let them pass during Republic Day celebrations. 

"India was deeply anguished at seeing the insult to the tricolour on January 26. We showed extraordinary resolve and bravery last year. We have to work hard this year to fulfil the promises we have made,” he said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

Modi on Saturday told leaders of various political parties that his government is trying to resolve the issues raised by farmers. "During the All-Party meet PM Narendra Modi assured that GoI (Government of India) is approaching the farmers' issue with an open mind. The PM said GoI's stand is same as it was on January 22 - the proposal by the Agriculture Minister still stands," Union Minister Pralhad Joshi said on Twitter.

The government suspended mobile internet services in several areas around Delhi on Saturday as protesting farmers began a one-day hunger strike after a week of clashes with authorities that left one dead and hundreds injured. Angry at new agricultural laws that they say benefit large private food buyers at the expense of producers, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped at protest sites on the outskirts of the capital for more than two months.

Modi’s speech this morning comes a day before his government presents its annual budget that is expected to boost spending on job-creation and rural development to mend an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

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